Thursday, April 25, 2013

Uraling to Alaska - Day 19: Failed Attempt at Wasilla, AK

We woke to "light snow mist" this morning here in the Fairbanks, AK area.

After some debate, I decided to give it a shot and go for Wasilla which is located about 60 miles north of Anchorage.  I got the rig all packed up and left Fairbanks with snow still lightly falling but the streets just wet, not icy.

Temperatures were in the low 30s for the most part, dipping into the upper 20s in the summit portions of Alaska 3, the highway that leads one past Denali National Park and to Anchorage.

It was a few miles after I fueled up at a Tesoro gas station that Valencia's engine just quit while I was riding up a small hill.  I rolled to a stop at the side of the road, tried a couple of times to restart her, nothing.  I checked the fuel connections, as the issue seemed to be fuel starvation.  I found nothing, went to try restarting her again and this time the engine turned over and everything seemed fine.

Hmmm, I thought, must have been some water in the fuel perhaps.  I continued motoring south, now with a bit of trepidation on my mind to go along with the snow-covered roads in the high portions of the route.  South of  Nenana and about 35 miles from Healy, I had to switch the fuel petcock over to reserve at only 144 kilometers on the odometer.  Hmmm, that's pretty low, I remember thinking.

I was within reach of the village of Healy though so I wasn't too worried, as I still carried my spare gas cans.

Perhaps a couple of miles north of Healy, the engine started sputtering again and running really rough!  I limped into the Tesoro gas station on the north end of Healy and refueled, thinking perhaps I'd been close to running out of gas.

Fueling done, and with the idle seemingly normal again, I started heading out the parking lot but didn't even make it to the parking lot entrance before she started sputtering again, shaking pretty severely.  I slowly, couldn't do much else really, rode her back to the gas station and parked her next to the front door.

Over the next few hours, I would do the basic troubleshooting, follow some other troubleshooting ideas from the guys at Raceway Services, all to no avail.  I pretty much though, eliminated fuel contamination in the carburetors and blockage of the fuel lines by perhaps clogged filters inside the gas tank.  Spark plugs looked as they did yesterday, with that light caramel color one is advised to seek.  The fuel tank's drain tube was clear and besides, the rough running had occurred with gas cap off as well.  Checked air filter, it was still clean from yesterday and even when I ran the engine without an air filter, same rough running/sputtering.

I even put about 1/2 bottle of Heet water absorber into the fuel tank, no luck.  About an hour into the troubleshooting, I had called RichardM up and requested trailer support.  He swiftly moved to borrow a trailer from the same guy who helped us swap tires two days before and headed my way.

I even took off the carburetors, removed the float bowls to inspect, removed/inspected/blew through the main jets, all to no avail.  She would idle just fine, but when you increased the rpm's, she'd start to run rough and sputter/miss.  At this point in the troubleshooting, we moved to the ignition system.

Didn't get very far as I lacked the alligator clips to fabricate a bypass for the ignition coil to see whether it was the ignition switch in the headlight that was the issue.  I tried an old trick shown to me by Jim of Raceway Services where one jiggles the ignition key while the engine is idling to see if you can induce a stumble, none was felt.

By this time, it was 4PM, I was out of ideas, and the local mechanic had asked if I had spare spark plugs, which I didn't.  You see, the spares I did have were for the Ducati ignition system, not usable on the PowerArc ignition system, I had planned on getting spares in Anchorage as the plugs installed by Raceway were only 3000 miles old.

I sat and waited for RichardM to arrive, it was perhaps 5PM when he did arrive in the company of his son Kyle and with his pickup truck and borrowed trailer.  Shortly before RichardM arrived, this fellow on a Airhead Beemer had shown up from the south!

On snow covered roads, on two wheels.....

His name was Austin, from Golden, Colorado!  Small world eh?  He was enroute to Fairbanks to work a seasonal job, having just bought the above airhead in Anchorage!  We talked for a bit and he decided to wait for better weather and went off to check in at the local motel.

RichardM had  found a location where I could drive Valencia and ride up onto the trailer.  It was a bit of a harrowing experience but we finally got Valencia on the trailer and tied down.  Then it was a slow ride back towards Fairbanks, about 125 miles or so I think.


Dinner was at the Grill called Monderosa north of Nenana.  It's a popular eating spot for the local motorcycle riders and I can tell you the burgers were excellent!

We got back to Fairbanks with no issues and RichardM proceeded to impress me once again with his masterful skill at backing the trailer down his driveway and by the garage with seemingly effortless ease.  The plan is to take Valencia to the newly minted Ural dealer in Fairbanks: Frozen Motor Works and have him see what the issue is.

Oh, and of course, to add insult to injury.....the roads on the way back were clear and dry the further north we went!  The sun even came out and made it a nice evening.


Unknown said...


thankfully we had Richard standing by to rescue you.

I sure hope it is something so simple you would be thinking "why didn't I do that ?", or that they have parts "in stock". At least you are safe & warm, and a place you can stay for a few days

Riding the Wet Coast

redlegsrides said...

Hi Bob, yeah, pretty much a good breakdown location that I ended up and warm while awaiting rescue by RichardM.

SonjaM said...

That's part of the adventure, and you got Super Richard and team for rescue. Now you are back in a safe and warm place, as is your Ural...

Steve Williams said...

Dom: Seems like you are getting some wonderful opportunities for personal growth on this adventure. Glad Richard and the trailer were available to keep the growth to a minimum.

I couldn't help but think of the people who used to make the trip 100 years ago or more, what the wilderness was like on foot, or horse, or dog sled.

I think it's probably time to stop using Redleg's Rides. We should all start calling you Sergeant Preston of the Yukon and Valencia can become Yukon King.

Or something like that.

Damn, what a great time you must be having.

Steve Williams
Scooter in the Sticks

BeemerGirl said...

Just think of everything that you are learning to work on for Valencia! Soon you'll be able to perform engine overhauls on the side of the road. :)

I'm glad that Richard was on hand, and I really hope the fix is an easy one.

redlegsrides said...

SonjaM, Super Richard indeed.

Steve, truly I am having quite the adventure and yet as you state, difficulties aside, it is a great time overall.

Beemergirl, the work continues on the rig, progress is being made, hopefully today they determine the main culprit. Thanks for commenting.